The cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars for an average middle income family in the BVI. Add in prenatal care, delivery and college costs, and the estimated costs can easily double. As with all major expenditures or purchases, you must plan and budget for having your child.
You need to plan out different budgets to move you through the different stages of parenting and child-rearing. Your initial budget, however, should include all costs related to pregnancy, child delivery and caring for the baby. Bear in mind that you might experience a possible decrease in income during maternity leave or, on the other hand, a possible increase based on your maternity benefits. Check with your health insurance coverage to see what is covered in terms of pregnancy and delivery.
Getting regular health care while you are pregnant is important to ensure that you and your baby remain healthy. According to some reports, babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who get care. Identifying problems early can lead to early treatment, cure and the prevention of other problems. This can save you lots in health care costs.
The law (Labour Code, 2010) states that a woman who has completed 12 months of continuous employment is eligible for maternity leave of at least 13 weeks. To be granted leave, you must give your employer a certificate from a medical practitioner stating the presumed date of confinement or the expected delivery date. Depending on your employment history, you will be eligible to apply for between six to thirteen weeks maternity leave. A husband or de facto spouse is also eligible for up to one month paternity leave without pay.
Some employers provide paid maternity on a scaled basis; for example, for three months paid maternity, they might pay one month’s leave on full salary and the other two months leave on half salary. Most companies, though, don’t provide paid maternity leave and they are not required by law to do so.
You will also be eligible to receive a Maternity Benefit from the Social Security Board if you meet certain requirements. Some employers that pay maternity leave, themselves, will still allow you to get paid your maternity benefit from Social Security. Other employers that give paid maternity leave may require you to pay them back the maternity benefit that you have received from Social Security. A maternity benefit is an allowance and/or a grant which is paid to a woman who is off from work due to her pregnancy or who has given birth. A maternity allowance is paid at the rate of 66 2/3 percent of the average insurable earnings. To qualify for this allowance, you must have been paying Social Security for at least 26 weeks (six months) and you must have made at least 20 contributions to Social Security immediately before the baby is due. If you qualify, you will be paid the maternity allowance for up to 13 weeks immediately before or after your confinement. A maternity grant is a one-time payment to assist with the general expense of having a baby. It is paid if either you or your baby’s qualifying father has paid 26 weeks (six months) of contributions to Social Security. This grant can be up to $600; $300 will be paid on your strength and $300 on the strength of the qualifying father. A qualifying father is the husband or single man living in the same household with a single woman for at least 2 years (proof is required).
To claim maternity benefit you must present a:
- Medical Certificate of Expected Confinement (once you have stopped working, the doctor will fill out the form).
- Certificate of Confinement (once the baby is born the doctor will fill out the form).
- Maternity Expense Form (necessary only if the birth took place at Peebles Hospital).
- Submit the Claim Forms to the Social Security Board’s office not earlier than 6 weeks before the expected delivery date but no later than 4 weeks after the delivery.
Remember you are only eligible to receive maternity benefits if you have been paying your Social Security Contributions. If you are thinking of having a baby, being up-to-date with your Social Security contributions will be to your advantage.
It’s very popular in the BVI for family and friends to throw a baby shower for an expecting mother or couple. Baby showers are a good way to help offset some of the costs of having a new baby. Having a baby registry at a store will allow you to select the types of gifts you would like and it also allows your friends and family to purchase a gift they can afford. Your registry can include a crib, car seat, diaper bag, crib mattress, or bassinet, as well as bottles, clothes, nursing items, and diapers. Baby stores will usually have a list of all the supplies you need for your baby. Make sure to include these items on your baby budget.
Getting second-hand baby items, such as cribs and car seats, from friends and relatives, is also a great way to save money and stretch your baby budget. As babies only use things for a short time, second-hand items can be relatively new. Don’t be reluctant to ask people you know for baby items in good condition. You may also want to check the Red Cross store to see what they might have on sale.
Having your baby in the BVI at Peebles Hospital is relatively inexpensive and should be considered your first option. Experienced OB-GYNs in the BVI charge around $1,000 for a natural delivery, and $1,500 for surgical delivery (cesarean). At Peebles Hospital, you will be required to pay $280 for hospital admittance and between $300 - $500 for a natural delivery. A surgical delivery costs up to $1000. These fees are inclusive of delivery room, food and other charges. A delivery outside the BVI (in St. Thomas, Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland) is much more expensive and you should also factor in travel, transportation, and hotel or home stay costs.
If you will need childcare, it’s a good idea to start looking even before your baby is born. You should research affordable child care facilities that provide the best and most efficient care for your baby. Some facilities that are in high demand will allow you to register your child early or will put him or her on a waitlist.
Saving for a baby is just as important as saving for big ticket items, such as a house or a car. You should start putting a percentage of your income aside for baby-related expenses as early as possible and you should also make adjustments to your emergency fund that reflect possible child care emergencies. Money problems can be even more stressful when you have to take care of a child, so regularly allocating a portion of your earnings to a baby fund is crucial even when there is no baby on the horizon.